One of the greatest success stories of Auroville is the transformation of the barren plateau on which Auroville was founded into the lush forest that covers it today. This story has now been documented by filmmaker Christoph Pohl in the 56-minute documentary ‘Ever Slow Green’. In this breathtaking movie, Christoph takes us through, over, and into the Auroville forest, and speaks to some of the key players who have made the reforestation here happen.
We spoke to Christoph about his creation, which is now available on online viewing platforms.
Starting a Forest, Starting a Movie
When Aurovilians arrived here in the 1960s, the first need was for shade, and over time, they planted millions of trees in an effort to stave off the incredible heat of South India. Trees were planted in barren soil and watered by hand many times a week just to ensure their survival. Only some pioneer species survived, and once those grew, other types could be planted in their shade. Through studying the local vegetation, Aurovilians started seeking to recreate a type of forest indigenous to this area, called the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF). Today, only between 2-5% of the original TDEF has survived in South India, of which a sizeable chunk is vested in the Auroville forests.
Christoph was impressed when he first came to Auroville – the forest, by this time about 35 years of age, was dense and lush. “When I was told that all these forests were made from scratch, that it is all man-made and maximum 30-40 years old, I was really surprised, I wasn’t aware you could create a forest like this. A few years later I settled in the forest and started working in it also.” It inspired him to make his first feature-length film. “I was doing post-production for film and TV and I had a vision for doing a full-length movie one day. Between the forest and this dream, it slowly came together. Finally I put in a project proposal to Auroville 50th Anniversary group and received some funds. That got it started.”
The Characters – Human and Otherwise
The main character of the film is the forest, a lush affair that we travel through in slow motion, exploring the nooks and crannies full of life. The other stars are the forest workers of Auroville, of which 17 show up in the movie. “In reality there are far more people than featured in the film: In Auroville we have about 45 forest communities with one or two stewards each. It was very difficult for me to narrow down to 17 and I’m only sorry that I couldn’t feature all of them.” These people represent a mix of histories and ideas about the forest, with some planting the first trees and recalling the experimentation of the early days, and others mapping out a vision for the future of the Auroville forests.
The supporting cast is made up of the animals – Christoph got some very lucky shots of Auroville wildlife, some of which were made right in his backyard. “We were lucky to get some shots of wildlife, but that is very hard to do. The flying bird we got, it was actually following the drone and the operator told me that that is quite normal, because birds get irritated by the drone and they follow it. At some point the manufacturer started painting the top black because for some reason that is less attractive to them. Of the other animals in the movie, two shots I just did around the house – I just saw these outside and ran in to get my camera. You have to be at the right place at the right time.”
A Tropically Warm Reception
The movie was launched in January 2020 at the Auroville Film Festival and has since travelled the world, visiting 16 international film festivals in total. Until today, it has won 4 awards. “It has done very well. In the beginning I was quite curious whether it would be understood and received outside of Auroville. But I got a lot of positive feedback – people really get inspired by the film, and that is the main purpose, that people get inspired by it. Because it’s an environmental film but it is one of the few that has a positive message, something to give you hope.”
One of the reasons it has done so well is probably because it tells a clear and contained story of one aspect of Auroville. That also means that for some, other aspects might be missing, like Auroville’s raison d’être. “The movie only briefly about Auroville as such, about Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. This was a conscious decision of mine. Explaining what Auroville is, it’s impossible to do that in one film. So I really consciously decided to only focus on the forest work in Auroville. On a subtle level, the movie does talk about the spiritual aspect of Auroville – not in a direct way, but in how the different characters talk about their work in the forest, their love and dedication, and what it means to them.”
Did we manage to pique your interest to see this beautiful meditation on the Auroville forest? You can now see it online on selected platforms.
And we add some good news: Christoph is donating 30% of the revenue to the Forest Group of Auroville to continue their work in planting and protecting one of the last vestiges of Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest in South India!